Although Morocco has achieved relative success in COVID-19 containment, lessons from China and New Zealand indicate cautious re-opening may best serve Moroccans’ long-term interests.
Rabat – We are a British-Moroccan family who have lived in Sale for nearly 20 years and have always worked in the tourism sector. We opened one of the first riads in Sale’s ancient medina about 10 years ago, The Repose riad.
As the COVID-19 crisis began fanning out and Morocco started to limit travel, before enforcing lockdown and closing cafes, we took the early decision to close our riad. We helped guests staying with us to return home early, via alternative routes, before all the borders were closed. We felt this was the right decision to protect ourselves and our community.
We have watched with awe, appreciation, and pride as Morocco came together in its response to COVID-19 and the unprecedented problems it presented. Morocco has been decisive, clear, practical, and responsible. We have been rightly applauded globally for strong leadership and this should only serve us well in promoting long-term tourism.
As we go through this period of gradual deconfinement, we need to continue to make the right decisions and make sure we are taking steps forward, not backward.
Instead of asking whether Morocco will receive any quarantine exemptions from countries like the UK, we should be considering which countries Morocco would like to be making an air bridge with, if any at all. We are in a strong position to be calling the shots and controlling our borders.
We work entirely in the tourism sector and our income is directly dependent on the borders reopening as 98% of our clients are international. We, of course, appreciate the urgent desire for borders to reopen as soon as possible so my family, our employees’ and suppliers’ families, plus many others indirectly affected can start to make some sort of livelihood again.
On a personal note, we also have close family who would love to be on the next plane to visit us. This has to go on the back burner for now and we have to be responsible and prioritize the long-term benefit of our community.
Caution for long-term gain
Eighty percent of our clients are from countries with much worse statistics than Morocco and we only have to look at countries like New Zealand or China to understand the risks this presents.
In New Zealand, after 24 days of declaring the country COVID-19 free, two imported cases from the UK managed to slip through the quarantine system and, within a very short period, come in contact with 320 now vulnerable citizens. In China, there are reports of a second wave of infections and, after restrictions had been eased, lockdown has now been enforced once more and flights cancelled.
We do not want to be responsible for bringing in guests from countries with worse statistics than Morocco and endangering not only ourselves and everyone who works with us, but also the entire local community.
It is better to keep borders closed longer than have to start lockdown all over again. As the respected Mr. El Othmani said in his speech last week, we have to choose ”humanity” over economy, because without “humanity” there is no economy.
InshAllah, instead of one spoon of sugar now, which may give us a small burst of energy but may be followed by burnout, let us try and wait for the jar of honey, which will be sweeter and keep us all energized for longer.